Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chinook CH-47F pilots loving their glass cockpit

Posted by John McHale
"There's nothing like a new Chinook helicopter smell," someone said near me as I boarded a new CH-47F Chinook helicopter at AUSA Winter's static display outside the convention center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He's right it did smell new, but perhaps the most shiny part of the new aircraft was its avionics.

A Chinook helicopter pilot -- Lt. Jack Tartaglia -- ran me through the aircraft's new glass cockpit, provided by Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

A former pilot on the CH-47U model, he told me the glass cockpits are far and away better for pilots than older cockpits with mechanical gauges just from an ease of use and efficiency perspective. Tartaglia said his favorite part in the avionics suite is the map display, which operates in real-time, displaying data from anywhere in the world.

For more on the Chinook cockpits read "Army uses open standards for helicopter avionics."

It took years for glass cockpits to be fielded, but now new features are added every few weeks such as multiple radios and extra slots for data cards. The pilots can change their flight plan on the fly by just plugging in a data card, then the helicopter just flies on its own according to the new flight plan.

The best thing about my little tour was the enthusiasm of the Chinook crew. They absolutely love the new model.